Xmas on the Coast


I’d forgotten what it’s like – Xmas on the Coast, in those sacred Australian days between Boxing Day and New Year. The pressures, complications and emotional overtones of Xmas Day all over, with everyone now free to flee their suburban shackles and go Up or Down or Out To the Coast.

We’re generally never here, Down the Coast, in peak times like Xmas. This time, on a whim, we had jagged the holiday house when no-one else’s name was in the book. We mostly stay at times when it’s quiet, just the locals and the grey nomads and the owners working on their properties.

But now, every house up and down the channel is occupied. Each one packed to the gunnels in fact, with mostly two generations and frequently three. There’s a boat gently rocking at every wharf, four cars on every front lawn, and a gathering down on every waterfront. Fishing lines cast, seeking out the few dumb fish who missed out on the piscatorial smarts generated by natural selection from 60 years of lines thrown in off jetties. Dogs on shore barking at dogs in boats. Kids jumping in the water shouting “Look at me mum/dad/pop/nanna, look at me.”

It takes me back to the sixties. Sure, the kids’ bikes are fancier and there are stand-up paddleboards instead of lilos; the rooster tails of jet skies slowly burbling past instead of the putter-putt of clinker launches. But the feeling is the same, a special, separated from normal daily life feeling. There even seems to be a general outbreak of civil disobedience about the bike helmet laws, involving all but the littlest kids.

These are holy days of obligation when the compulsory religious habit is singlet, shorts, bikini tops. thongs. When you observe the rituals like carving the ham left over from Xmas, for breakfast ham-and-eggs, lunchtime toasted ham-and-tomato sandwiches, and dinnertime ham salads. When you haven’t started the car for days, just strolled down to town for milk and bread.

What are we worshipping here? Our parents or grandparents who had the foresight to buy a little piece of coastal paradise on the water for 500 pounds back in the day, and put up the fibro holiday house, perhaps. The Aussie holy trinity of the beach, the beer and the barbie, maybe. The gift of a few days when all but the unluckiest are off work at the same time. The delights of family, when generations are thrown together and kids start learning their grandparents’ lore, like how to thread a prawn on a fishhook, and how to start the outboard.

May the grace of your early morning swims, and the joy of your families, and the holy spirit of Xmas on the Coast be with you, now and always.

David White



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